English Language Day

English Language Day Quick Facts - CA

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2024 DateApril 23, 2024
2025 DateApril 23, 2025

English Language Day

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English Language Day History

English Language Day is dedicated to promoting linguistic and cultural diversity, as well as multilingualism. Celebrated globally, this day acknowledges the historical and contemporary significance of the English Language. A key objective is to foster a renewed appreciation amongst native speakers, as well as encouraging learners to further their understanding. The day also acknowledges the rich literary tradition of the language and its role as a medium of instruction and communication.

The United Nations (UN) established English Language Day in 2010 as one of six language days to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity. These days are focused on the UN’s six official languages, one of which is English. With Canada being fundamentally bilingual, English Language Day is particularly relevant. It offers an opportunity to celebrate the role of English in the nation’s linguistic diversity, and remind citizens of the English language's profound contribution to the country’s multicultural society.

In Canada, English Language Day is observed in several ways. Educational institutions may hold special lectures or workshops focusing on the English language's history, evolution, and its importance in global communication. Libraries and bookstores may host events highlighting English literature. Additionally, radio and television programs may feature special segments dedicated to the day. The day is observed on April 23rd, chosen by the UN to coincide with the date traditionally observed as the birthday of William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, who is arguably one of the greatest contributors to English literature.

Facts about English Language Day

  • There are six total working languages among the UN community and five other language days. They are: Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.
  • There are approximately 106 total countries that use English as a first-language and some 339 million first-language speakers (i.e. it is their first and primary language spoken) worldwide.
  • The English language can trace its origins back to the year 450 when invading German tribes spoke a similar language. The language of this time period came to be referred to as Old English. Native English speakers today would have trouble understanding it, as it has many differences to what we now consider the English language.
  • The term "Canuck", a slang term for a Canadian in English, was first used in the 19th century and is derived from "kanaka", a Hawaiian word for "person". It was later popularized and is now used with pride by many Canadians.
  • Canadian English has unique vocabulary and expressions influenced by French and Indigenous languages. Some familiar examples include “toque” for winter hat, and “poutine” which is a popular dish made with french fries, cheese curds, and gravy.

Top things to do in Canada for English Language Day

  • Volunteer at a local English Second Language center that provides incoming immigrants with language training. Many of these centers operate with volunteers and you can help the learners practice their English.
  • Visit Museums: Exploring historical museums or libraries, such as Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum or Ottawa's Library and Archives Canada, can provide a wealth of English language resources.
  • Read a book to learn more about the English Language in Canada:
    1) The Canadian Prairies: A History - by Gerald Friesen – This book provides insight into the historical and geographical aspects of prairie life that have shaped Canadian English.
    2) Visions of Canada: The Alan B. Plaunt Memorial Lectures, 1958-1992 – This book features a collection of lectures about Canadian culture and society, including its unique approach to bilingualism.

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